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SUPER BOWL XXXIX Eagles confident in their kicker



Published: Sat, February 5, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Davis Akers hopes for a chance to kick the game-winner.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- David Akers waited on tables while waiting for another opportunity to play in the NFL.

Once he got it, he made sure he'd never take another order or serve another meal.

In six seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Akers has established himself as one of the best kickers in the league, earning three trips to the Pro Bowl. On Sunday, he might get a chance to kick the game-winning field goal in the Super Bowl.

"If it comes down to it, I feel very confident that I can make it," Akers said.

His counterpart on New England, All-Pro kicker Adam Vinatieri, has won two of the last three Super Bowls with field goals in the final seconds.

Understands the situation

Akers hasn't envisioned himself kicking a game-winner, though he's shared in Vinatieri's joy and Scott Norwood's agony. Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal with 8 seconds remaining, giving the New York Giants a 20-19 win over Buffalo in the Super Bowl 14 years ago.

"I know kickers are put into some of the same situations as quarterbacks -- sometimes you get undue praise and sometimes you get undue criticism," Akers said. "That is just part of the job.

"Some of the instances with Scott Norwood are a good example. If you asked the public how far he missed from, they would say 25 yards. It was actually 47 yards. That is a tough kick regardless of the situation."

Akers has made a few of them, converting 139 of 167 to rank second behind Indianapolis' Mike Vanderjagt on the NFL's all-time list in field goal percentage at 83.2 percent.

He is Philadelphia's all-time leader with 139 field goals, and set a league record this season with 17 field goals of 40 yards or longer.

"David Akers is a very good kicker," Vinatieri said. "If he didn't play in Philadelphia, where the weather conditions are tough, he'd probably be No. 1. I hope he doesn't have that opportunity at the end because I know he will make that kick."

Like Vinatieri, Akers doesn't shy away from contact on the field. He's made 27 tackles in his career, and broke his nose in the NFC championship game against Atlanta.

Mentally tough

Still, his left foot is more valuable to the team than his tackling skills. He kicked a 50-yarder to beat Cleveland in overtime this season, and has made six game-tying or game-winning field goals in the final seconds.

"He's so mentally tough. He's the best in the business," Eagles coach Andy Reid said.

Akers established a school record with 36 field goals in four seasons at Louisville. But he was cut by Carolina, Atlanta and Washington before signing with the Eagles.

Between stints with the Panthers and the Falcons, Akers worked as a substitute teacher in Kentucky. After he was released by the Redskins in 1998, he found a job as a waiter at a steakhouse in Georgia.

He spent one season as Philadelphia's kickoff specialist and long-yardage kicker in 1999, before taking the starting job the following year and missing just four of 33.

He has never missed a field goal of 29 yards or shorter, hitting all 37 from that distance. He's 48-for-53 (90.5 percent) on kicks between 30-39 yards, 43-for-60 (71.6 percent) between 40-49 yards and 9-for-15 (60.0 percent) longer than 50 yards.

In the playoffs, Akers has made all four of his field goals this season, 17-of-21 in his career and all 25 extra points.

"We now have unfinished business to do down here," Akers said. "We have talked about it all year long -- to play in the Super Bowl -- but we don't want to be second place. Nobody remembers second place, so the only way we go down in history is to win the game."




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